I read a few paragraphs from the "The Benedictines,"(1) nearly every day. This small, seldom mentioned book, was originally published in 1929, eighty years ago. If we use 20 years as a cultural generation, we are about four generations past the generation of the book.
The reason I mention the passage of time is because of the following paragraph from "The Benedictines":
“The past glories of monasticism are deeply imbedded in the historical consciousness of us all. Who has not heard of Canterbury and Westminster, Bec and Cluny, Montserrat and Monte Cassino? Their very names have a beauty and associations which rival the names of myth and romance enshrined by Virgil and Milton.”
The answer to the question is: me!
Prior to becoming an oblate, the glories of monasticism were NOT deeply imbedded in my historical consciousness. I had heard of Canterbury and Westminster, but only in the context that they were places in England and without any thought that they were related to monasteries or monasticism.
More embarrasing is the fact that I had never heard of Bec, Cluny, or Montserrat.
In fact, Monte Cassino, is the only place I knew was a monastery, but I did not associate it with the common-knowledge glories of monasticism, but rather I knew it as the “Italian” monastery bombed to smithereens by the allies during World War II.
Although the "The Benedictines" was written in England and I live in the United States, the comment about what everyone knew in 1929 as part of the “historical consciousness of us all” and the knowledge of the glories of monasticism always strikes me as one of the many fascinating passages from the book because of what paragraph says about my own education and how much I had not known about monasticism until I visited St. Leo Abbey in Florida, USA in 2006.
What the rest of the world may know about the glories of Canterbury and Westminster, Bec and Cluny, Montserrat and Monte Cassino I do not know, but I think the author of the “The Benedictines" would find that the modern world has lost much of the memory of monasticism.
(1) "The Benedictines," A Digest for Moderns
By Dom David Knowles
Monk of Downside Abbey, 1929
Here are previous blogs about "The Benedictines":
Friday, December 19, 2008
Demanding what’s lacking.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
What oblates do.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
1,500 years together — Attachment and Detachment.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
What’s So Special About Ordinary?
Sunday, August 17, 2008
A Jewel Paid Into the Church Treasury.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Oblate Spring launched today.
When a Jesuit talked to a Franciscan (Video)
3 days ago